To the unsung heroes of SEA Games

Everyone usually know who the winners are in SEA Games as they’re often glorified by the media. But behind the glamour and glory, lies the athletes who did their best, but fell short of delivering the medals. These are the athletes who have put in the same amount of work and effort into their preparation for the games, but often get out-shadowed by the ones that won, which inspired me to write this today.

I’ve been there before, feeling insignificant when others hang their medals around their neck while I went home empty handed, not once, but twice. It kinda felt like I spent my whole season working my heart off just to reap 0 rewards at the end of the day, so it left me a feeling of emptiness, like everything I worked for just went to waste.

Being on the other side of the fence now, there are a few things that I’ve learnt over the years that I wish I knew last time, and maybe I would have been a much happier person back then.

I think many athletes tend to blame themselves when the outcome is not what they expect. But ask yourself, did you leave everything you have in the pool? If you did, then DON’T EVER BLAME YOURSELF for not doing as well as you expected for that race, because you already swam to the best of your ability, and that is what counts. So don’t see yourself as a failure; rather, use this race as motivation to strive harder and achieve better for the next competition.

Instead of “I could have changed this part of my race and the outcome would have been different.” Think “When I change this part of my race, I will be able to do better in the next competition.” 

One thing that hurt me the most was to see teammates crying at the SEA Games because they missed out on the medal placings. It wasn’t because they did badly, it was just that their competitors did better. I had my fair share of crying too when I missed out on the medals in some of my events even when I swam my personal best time, but it’s okay to cry when you literally spend half your life in the pool, so it definitely means a lot to us. More importantly, we have to stop blaming ourselves, and realize that we did not lose, it’s just that others have done better than us, and we’ll get them back the next time again.

I understand that there might be a feeling that you’ve let everyone who supported you down, but trust me, you already did your best, and they are already proud of what you’ve achieved. Always remember that the people that truly care for you will be always be there with you through the bad times, and rejoice with you during your good times.

If it makes you feel any better, an average size of a SEA Games squad is about 15 guys and 15 girls, which means you’re already 1 of the 15 fastest swimmers in Singapore, and from Sports Singapore’s National Sports Participation Survey,  there are approximately 259,800 people that swim. So to be 15th out of 259,800 people, which is the top 0.0003% in Singapore (don’t worry I used a calculator for this), is already an amazing feat! So don’t see any less of yourself.

I know I digressed a little, but you get my point, don’t see any less of yourself.

I remember back in 2011 when I was about to give up swimming, an advice given from my mum stuck with me till today: It doesn’t matter how slow you are at the start of your career, what matters most is at the end of the day, you end off at where you want to be in life. It may take you months, or years of hard work to get there, but always remember that you’re in your own race, and there is no one else you’ll need to compare to besides yourself. So keep your head up and keep fighting on, and you’ll get to where you want to be one day.

Reach your fullest potential and be the best version of yourself.

Lastly, always remember that God has a plan for you, and your time will come eventually. All you have to do is to trust and enjoy the process and things will fall into place for you. I remember being really furious in my prayers when I failed to medal in the past 2 editions of my SEA Games, like does He even exist? But looking back now I realized that He always had a plan for me. For all you know, I may have retired if I had won a medal at my first SEA Games, because my goal would be achieved and I would be complacent. But losing gave me a far greater swimming experience as it has made me a stronger individual, someone who is no longer afraid of failure because when you’ve fallen that deep, things will only get better from there on wards. So keep the faith, and realized that you’ve already come so far. It took you many years to come this far, so don’t give up just yet!

To the unsung heroes of the SEA Games, remember that you’re already a winner. Lets strive do to better for the next. 🙂

 

P.S. Photos were taken by Adrian Seetho and Andy Chua from the 2017 SEA Games. All credit goes to them! 

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Appreciation post: My 5th SEA Games ended in a blink of an eye

Still can’t believe that the 2017 SEA Games is already over! It honestly feels like it was just December yesterday when the season just started. I’m happy that I can finally bid farewell to those sleep deprived nights, and the countless hours of pushing my body to its maximum pain threshold; all that to clock faster times during race day. It’s time to pig out and sleep forever now!!!!

Although I’m relieved that the pressure is finally over, I’m also sad that it has ended. I’ll definitely miss the adrenaline high that the competition brings once I’ve caught up with my sleep debt.

The harsh reality is starting to hit me as I looked back at my first SEA Games in 2009 – I’m getting old, and my role in the squad has changed from a rookie to a senior. More pressure comes naturally knowing that the clock is ticking for me career wise as age is definitely catching up, but I’ll just enjoy every moment I have left in this sport.

I came in to the 2017 SEA Games with a goal in mind – To win my first individual Gold medal at the SEA Games. I’m sure that many of you know that medals don’t come easy for me at the games, and I still have yet to win my first individual Gold medal. I was at the fittest shape in my career, so this goal was definitely achievable.

My best shot was in the Individual Medley events, and the closest one was the 200m Individual Medley.

The first 3 lengths of my swim went according to plan, and I was positioned at about 3rd place approaching the last 50m. I could see the silhouette of the first place swimmer as we were neck to neck, and that literally gave me the the surge of adrenaline through my body as I approached the Freestyle. However, the last 15m felt as though time slowed down for me as lactate was kicking in tremendously at this point of the race.

“Do it for Singapore, for Singapore. For Singapore…” was all that went through my head in the last 15m. At this point in time I couldn’t see the guy who was fighting for 1st place as my head was already down preparing for the finish.

I hit the wall as hard as I could, and turn straight to look at the score board.

My heart sank pretty deep when I saw a (2) next to my name. The difference that separated a Gold from a Silver was just 0.3 seconds. It was really hard to accept the fact that this happened.

Imagine working your ass off 30 hours a week and to see yourself getting out touched by 0.3 seconds, that was something I couldn’t bring myself to believe. I kinda felt my heart cramping a little at that point in time, and the harder I tried to control my emotions, the more it felt like someone was cutting a million onions beside me, and that was when I started to break down a little.

However, that’s not the point of this story; through this losing experience, I’ve came to learn the power and influence of a team, and how they helped turn my painful experience into a good one.

Words can’t describe how grateful I was for my coaches, teammates, and support staffs as they came to cheer me up and reassure me that everything was ok. They still regarded me like a winner of the race which made it feel a whole lot better for me.

As we had a relay at the same night that was coming up, my relay mates Danny, Zheng, and Joseph also cheered me back up and told me that the night wasn’t over, and we could end it off it a bang together.

With the assurance everyone gave me, I was able to get rid of the sadness quickly from my race and move on from it, and thanks to everyone, we ended off with a bang indeed. 🙂

Swimming may seem like an individual sport, but when you spend countless of hours day in and day out with the same people, you create an unbreakable bond between your teammates and coaches. Behind every swimmer, there’s always an endless amount of support from coaches, teammates, Sport Science team (which includes Nutritionist, Physiologist, Psychologist, Biomechanist, and Strength and Conditioning), various masseurs, and not forgetting our parents and significant others as well. So on the surface it may seem like an individual effort, but if you dig deeper, swimming is much more than an individual sport.

There’s always a lot of pressure when it comes to racing big meets like these as you’re not only swimming for yourself, but you are racing for the team that is behind you as well.

To the coaches Gary, Stephan, and Sonya, thank you for being like our second parents, guiding us and allowing us to pour any troubles and worries that we may have in our lives (it can be as ridiculous as relationship problems), and always being there for us 24/7. The ratio of coaches to swimmers is about 1:10, so it’s amazing how you guys are able to know each and every swimmer inside out.

To the Sport Science team, thank you for convincing me about the importance of warm downs, diet, and mental strength when it comes to optimum race performance. I’ve definitely learnt a lot from you guys and I’ll apply what I’ve learnt when the next season begins!

To my amazing teammates, I’m glad we pushed each other during the hardest days of training, because it sure paid off during the Games! Congrats to each and everyone of you for your achievements and lets all strive for another great season again together. 🙂

To my roommate “Zheng Wei”, mad props to you for winning an individual Gold medal in your SEA Games debut! There’s honestly so many things that I can learn from you so I look forward to our next competition as roommates again!

To my bestest friend, thank you for flying all the way to KL to support me! Glad I’m still a winner in your heart. Like what you said – it’s not that I’ve lost my races, it’s that others have won. I’ve already did my personal best times, so have no regrets. Grateful to have someone like you to constantly pick me up during my lowest moments. 🙂

To my really patient parents, I’m just glad to not leave the games empty handed this time around! Thank you for always believing in me despite coming home empty handed for my first 2 SEA Games. I’m glad that you guys never gave up on me and we pulled through.

To my sisters, sorry I couldn’t get a photo with you all at the games, but thank you for coming all the way down to Malaysia to support me. It’s nice to have the whole family behind me during my races! 🙂

Lastly, here’s a BIG THANK YOU to everyone that has supported me through my races! I’ve read all your really encouraging messages and I’m really grateful for that. It has definitely made me proud to be part of Team Singapore. 🙂

Also, special mention to my bro Adrian Seetho for always capturing these wonderful moments of my swimming career! These will be the photos I’ll look back on to bring back great memories when I retire from the sport. You’ve definitely brought back many great memories for all of us through your passion for photography!

This concludes my 2017 chapter. I’ve definitely grown a lot as an individual this year and there are definitely things that I’ll need to work on leading up to the next few major competitions, which may potentially be my last ones. There isn’t much time left for me in the sport, so I’ll enjoy every moment and seize every opportunity I have to work even harder. And maybe who knows, the stars may align and the odds may be in my favor for the next one.  I’ll always keep my faith in God. 🙂

 

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How to trick your mind to effortlessly complete your swimming workout

I’m sure many swimmers, especially distance swimmers, can relate to your coaches giving you insanely long sets during your training sessions which may feel impossible to complete sometimes, especially on your worst days of training. Sometimes it makes you wonder if they were smoking weed or something the night before to have given you such insane sets.

Being a distance swimmer for most of my swimming life, there are definitely some days I get mad when my water feel isn’t great and there’s an insane set lined up for me during that training session.

Sets like 10×400 IMs, 40×100 Freestyles, 3 rounds of 8×50 at lactate intensity just to name a few. I’ve slowly learnt to overcome the fear of these insanely long sets by tricking my mind into thinking that sets like these are actually not long and easy to accomplish.

Whether you’re a distance swimmer, or someone who just hates long and intensive sets in general, here are some tricks that I’ve learnt over the years which may benefit you as well:

1) Break the set into portions

Photo Credits: Andy Chua

For a set like 10x400IM, instead of telling yourself it’s a 10x400m set, tell yourself that it is 2 x [5x400IM], or 5 x [2x400IM], because it’ll seem so much easier to complete if you break it down into portions. After completing the first [2x400IM], tell yourself that you only have 4 more rounds of that cycle, and after completing [5x400IMs], tell yourself that you only need to complete 1 more round of that cycle. In that way, you’ll always have something to look forward to, and this allows you to take each 400m at a time and focus on 1 swim at a time, instead of trying to complete the whole 10x400IM set as a whole. Trust me, this shift in mindset makes the set a whole lot easier!

2) Pick something you would like to focus on during the set

There’s always something important to focus on during a main set. For example, do you want to focus on your distance per stroke for the day? Or your kick? There’s always something that you can focus on during the training session itself, so pick something that you would like to focus on for that session and try to perfect it; I guarantee that your set will be over before you know it because you’ll be so focused on perfecting your technique that you might even forget the pain of the set.

For a set like 40×100, aim to pull 32 strokes for the first 50m and 33 strokes for the second 50m, and count each 100m to see if you’ve achieved that expectation, you’ll realize that the set gets much more interesting as there’s a challenging element to the set instead of just going through the motion.

3) Tell yourself it’s the “last set before the last set” 

Another mental trick that ensures that you don’t save up for the last max effort. In a set like 8x50m max effort, before doing the 7th one, tell yourself that it’s the “last max effort before the last max effort“, that way, you’ll naturally go harder on the 7th one and not save up your energy for the last one. For some reason, you’ll always have that extra bit left in you to sprint the last one, so if you can just go hard on the 7th one, you’ll be pushing much harder during training than you usually do.

4) The set naturally gets easier after halfway

Always remember that for some reason, the set just gets much easier after you hit the halfway mark. Say you’re in a 8x50m max effort set, if you don’t already realize, the last 4x50m is always easier than the first 4x50m. Maybe it’s your mind telling you that the end is almost near, which is why it mentally feels easier to complete the last 4x50m in the max effort set.

To fully take advantage of this, when your coach gives you a 8x50m max effort set, instead of thinking that there’s 8x50m to complete, tell yourself that it is only a 4x50m max effort to halfway, and the next 4x50m will be an easy one to complete. That way, the set will feel much shorter than it is and you’ll clock better pace times.

It may not make sense, but it’s basically tricking your mind into thinking that the set is easier than it is. After all, the difference between accomplishing a good set and a bad one is mostly mental, so if you can trick your mind into better completing a set, why not?

5) Spur your teammates on during the main set 

The final and most important thing that has helped made my swimming workouts easier – Always remember that the best way for you to improve is when you help others improve as well. Spur your teammates on during practice, and cheer them on when both of you are in the same main set. It not only makes them better, it also serves as a reminder for yourself to swim your heart out during training as well. If they can get better, it will push you to be better too; this is something that I’ve learnt ever since I joined the National Training Squad. Swimming may be an individual sport, but working as a team always makes completing sets a whole lot easier, because being in a team, you’ll realize that your teammates are always there to spur you on during practices.

Always remember that you’ll have your bad days too, that’s when your teammates will step in and spur you on.

The bond created with your teammates through pushing each other on during training sessions also translates to race day. Because working together day in and day out will create such a strong bond between your teammates that even if you end up racing in the same race, you’ll naturally still want the best for them during their race.

So here are the various tips and tricks which I’ve learnt over the years of swimming and I hope that it will help you with your training as well! Keep working hard guys. 🙂

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My opinion on the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine [sp]

Living in Singapore all my life, I know that there are some that believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and some don’t. I’ve personally trusted TCM for about 18 years now, so I’ll share some things that I’ve learn through it. 🙂

To me, I always believed that Chinese and Western medicine work hand in hand when it comes to treating an illness. Western medicine treats the signs and symptoms of the sickness, whereas Chinese medicine treats the root of the problem.

Say for example if I had a cough, I’ll need both Western and Chinese medication as Western medication stops the cough almost immediately, and the Chinese medicine ensures that the cough doesn’t come back as it clears the root of the cough.

There are also times where we may also feel unwell for some reason, and we don’t know what’s the cause of the problem. It may be something as simple as feeling super lethargic, having weird and random headaches, feeling irritable & frustrated. That’s when TCM can help you with your problem as they are able to find the root of your problem through a simple pulse measurement.

For me personally, I see a TCM when I’m feeling lethargic and stressed out, usually either from my swimming training, or being too stressed when University exams are approaching. I find that TCM helps with calming my nerves down and helping me sleep well! As a swimmer, recovery is crucial and TCM has helped me with my sleep and therefore recovering well after every training session.

Here’s a run down of how a treatment in TCM works, all credit goes to PULSE TCM for treating me and ensuring that I’m able to train my heart out during my vigorous swimming sessions! 🙂

1) Pulse measurement  

I’m unsure about the variation of pulses, but all I know is that your left and right pulse shows the different symptoms that your body has, and the doctor is able to see where the problem lies just by taking your pulse.

After taking this Pulse, Dr Joyce Chee (doctor above) asked if I was having really vivid dreams, which was true as I had a dream the previous night that I was swimming, and I actually woke up doing a full swimming stroke haha! But that only happens when I’m stressed. And from genetics, there’s also a correlation between stress and having tummy aches for me, so having butterflies in my stomach is quite common for me.

Amazing part was that all these symptoms could be felt through my pulse, so there wasn’t much I needed to say to the doctor.

2) Acupuncture 

Next step was acupuncture, which I’m not a huge fan of due to the pain. And to have needles in my tummy was a pretty unpleasant feeling. But if it can help with strengthening my tummy and making me swim faster, I’m in for this idea!

What made it worse was having electric currents pulsating through my tummy during the acupuncture treatment. But not to worry, it wasn’t that painful, it was quite comfortable to be honest!

However, it’s the inserting needles part that hurts, so if you can pain through that part, the rest will be fine.

3) Verdict 

Overall, I did feel an immediate relief in my tummy after the acupuncture, but it wasn’t 100% well at that time as my tummy aches were still present, but I slept pretty well that night without any vivid dreams. It’s good to note that after a few days, the tummy aches were gone so I could train well again. 🙂

So to reiterate my point, I personally am a strong believer of Traditional Chinese Medicine as it has helped me out through my swimming career. I also believe that Chinese and Western medicine should go hand in hand when curing a sickness as Western medicine is for immediate cure, and Chinese medicine is to cure the root of the problem to prevent it from coming back again.

If you’re keen on visiting PULSE TCM as well, feel free to click on the link on the left to book your own appointment! Do note that the doctors there are all bilingual so don’t worry if you can’t speak fluent Chinese, you can communicate with the doctors in English as well. Hope I managed to convince you on the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine! And hope it helps you cure your underlying sicknesses as well. 🙂

If you guys have any questions about TCM treatments, you can always check their Ask Physician platform!

Also, you guys can quote Sheng Jun to enjoy first Acupuncture Treatment (inclusive of consultation) at $48!

 

Pulse TCM Clinic Address:

Wheelock Place
501 Orchard Road, Wheelock Place #03-04, Singapore 238880
11am to 9pm daily
6235 2855

Marina Bay Link Mall
8A Marina Boulevard, Marina Bay Link Mall #B2-52, Singapore 018984
Mon – Fri: 11am – 8pm | Sat: 11am – 6pm
6634 8933

 

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My response to: ‘How can 97 marks be not good enough?’ This is why all kids should learn sports

(Photo by Straits Times)

I was initially surprised to see that scoring 97 marks in a Chinese test did not make the cut for the Higher Chinese classes in Primary 2 in St. Hilda’s Primary School. But after reading the full article, I personally feel that it was a fair decision made.

To summarize the Straits Times article, some students’ parents complained that even though their children scored 97 marks for their Primary 1 Chinese test, they failed to make it to the Higher Chinese class in Primary 2 as they weren’t under the top 25% of students who scored above 97 points.

However, I would like to mention that it is not that the students did not do well; they did really well! Just that other students did better than them, which was why they did not qualify for the Higher Chinese class in Primary 2. Honestly, it’s not the students fault, they did their best, but it just wasn’t good enough. So I feel that instead of complaining to the school on how unfair the system is, parents should properly educate their kids on how to not be discouraged by this setback and keep pressing on. After all, they’re only Primary 1!! There’s so much more to their life than pondering over a Primary 1 Chinese test.

You know, kids always strive to do their parents proud, so if parents show any signs of disappointment to their kid’s performances, they can definitely sense it and blame themselves for it. Coming from a kid myself, I can vouch for that.

So parents, instead of complaining to the school about how unfair your child has been treated, educate your child on the importance of setbacks in life, and how they can use it to their advantage to make them stronger individuals!

To the kids that did not make it to the Higher Chinese class, always remember that it’s all about perspective – You can either ponder all your life about how you failed to make it to the Primary 2 Higher Chinese class, or you can move on from it, and strive to have better Chinese results in Primary 2. Honestly, you’ll lead a happier life if you choose to move on and strive for better results!

Also, if you can have that kind of mindset, you’ll officially be out of the rat race education system that many Singaporean kids are stuck in now and lead a much happier and stress free life.

The highest that I ever got in a Chinese test was in Primary 2, where I got 98. (WOW I WOULD HAVE MADE IT TO THE HIGHER CHINESE CLASS! But does it matter?) I still remember bragging about it to my mum that I no longer needed to study for my Chinese test as I was already smart enough, and she actually allowed me to stop studying, pretty chill mum I should say! However, my scores dropped to an average of 60-70 points for the next few tests, as I always end up coloring the fruits in the test papers instead of doing the paper. That still did not make me change my mind on studying again though…

But did my parents scold me when I got 60-70 points in my test?

Nope.

But why not?

If I don’t get good results, I won’t be able to get into a good Secondary school, and without a good secondary school, I wouldn’t be able to go to a good JC, University, etc… It’s an endless cycle.

But why didn’t my parents scold me? Was it because they didn’t care about me?

No.

It’s because they understood that there was more to life than just being paper smart. What’s the point of grinding all day in my books if it was something that I did not enjoy? For me, they knew that my passion was in swimming, so they allowed me to dedicate my time in an area which I was passionate about.

And this leads me to my main point on how sports can properly educate your kids on overcoming setbacks and becoming a stronger individual in the long run.

I’ll be using swimming as a sporting example to illustrate my points for obvious reasons.

In swimming, the best lessons are learnt the hard way. Think about it, have you ever remembered how you executed your best races? I highly doubt so. The best races happen naturally without much thought, it’s as though your body was on autopilot mode. You probably already forgotten how that racing experience felt and have already moved on from it.

On the other hand, when you have a bad race, you tend to be more critical on yourself, and try to figure out what went wrong in that race. You’ll start to find ways to better yourself in the next race, and keep replaying the race in your head to figure out what exactly went wrong and correct that aspect in the next race. And that is when the most efficient learning occurs.

Why do we learn best when we perform at our worst? That’s because we’re hurt and upset!! We’re not contented with the outcome, so we’ll be much more motivated to strive for better results so that in time, we’ll get the desired outcome that we want.

I’m sure that with this setback, the kids who didn’t make it to the Higher Chinese class will be more motivated to study harder in Primary 2.

(Photo by Wong Foo Lam)

Like what one of my swimming coaches Sonya Porter always tells me – you learn best when you are feeling at your worst; that is when everything does not flow naturally, and there is so much to pay attention to detail about because everything does not seem to be falling in place. Therefore, if we can learn to execute the correct things during our worse days, we will be even better during our best days.

So don’t be afraid of bad days, and embrace the worst feelings, because that is when you become a better swimmer.

As for the kids that did not make it to the Higher Chinese class, don’t be disheartened! You merely just had a setback, so get back up on your feet, and start studying hard again, you have so much potential in you, so don’t give up just because of a Primary 1 Chinese test.

“It is better to suffer some pain now, than a great deal of more pain later.” – Tom Campbell 

As for parents, I personally feel that you should allow your kids to experience this setback at a young age instead of fighting for them to get pushed to the Higher Chinese class. Allowing them to experience this setback at a young age gives them a taste of reality, that things will not always go the way they want to in life. Because that’s what life is all about, ain’t it? We will tend to appreciate things less when they come easy, that’s just human nature.

On the other hand, if you successfully transferred your kids to the Higher Chinese class, they’re going to grow up thinking that it’s ok to not strive to be a better person, because “my parents will help me with what I want anyway.” I’ve seen many self entitled kids nowadays so lets not contribute to it.

(Photo by Wong Foo Lam)

In swimming, say you did your very best, and even broke the World Record for an event, but you came in 4th place, which is out of the medal tally, because the top 3 swimmers did better and broke a World Record as well. Is it possible to complain to the judges and say HEYYY THIS IS UNFAIR!!! I DID REALLY WELL TOO!!! I SHOULD BE GIVEN A MEDAL AS WELL!!! 

No.

And that’s the harsh reality in sport. You can be swimming the best race of your life, but if others are better, you will get kicked out of the podium, and there’s nothing you can do about it to change the outcome. Which is the same for the kids which scored 97 points. Yes granted that they scored well, and nobody can take that away from them. But if others scored better, then it is a fair decision to put them on the normal Chinese class in Primary 2. So move on, and work harder in the Primary 2 Chinese class.

(Photo by Wong Foo Lam)

Swimming has humbled me as an individual, and it has also taught me an important life lesson, which I’m sure that many athletes can relate to – The reality of life is that things will not always go our way. But when it doesn’t, we have every right to be sad about it. But after being sad, we’ll have to learn to move on, get back up on our feet, and strive for better results in the future. After all, it isn’t the end of the world, so we can always try harder the next time around. If you keep with that mindset, you’ll look back at your life with no regrets, because deep down, you’ll know that you’ve live life to your fullest potential. 🙂

 

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Instagram: @swimpsj
Facebook: Pang Sheng Jun

Contact: swimpsj@gmail.com

Disclaimer: This post was written solely based on my own opinion. It is written with the purpose of inspiring readers to get over their setbacks and hopefully become stronger individuals. 

 

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I used to be afraid of failing… but not anymore

Everyone of you have gone through setbacks, whether it’s failing a paper you studied really hard for, to a competition which you did badly, even when you’ve did the best preparation for it.

Why must life be so unfair? Others have made the same preparations but they have done well, so why didn’t you?

You may even feel like Sometimes you just feel like the world is against you, or life is just pissing you off on purpose, don’t you?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I myself, and I’m sure many others, have gone through this tough phase and overcame it. I personally overcame my setbacks by constantly believing in the process, and believe in myself despite all the bad things that have happened in my life. But first, you have to accept the fact that the world is not against you, you just happen to be really unlucky this time around.

If you keep telling yourself that it is just one bad experience and it will get better in time, you’ll start to believe that you can get out of the slump and start achieving what you set yourself out for.

I’ll be teaching you a simple trick today which will help you in believing yourself more and staying motivated towards achieving your goals which you have in your life.

All you have to do is to look in the mirror, picture yourself as the person you want to be in 2-3 years time, and the achievements you want to have by then. Write them down in a piece of paper, or in your phone which you can set as your home screen, and start taking little steps to get to the person which you picture yourself to be. DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why is it important to write it down? To me personally, when I write something down in my phone and set it as my home screen, I am being held accountable to myself. Whenever I press the switch on my home screen, I would always be reminded of the goal which I want to achieve. For example, if your friend were to ask you out for a late night, but you’ve got morning training the next day, temptation will definitely strike you to just hang out for a bit. This is when the reminder that you’ve written in your phone will give you the extra motivation to to rest up and prepare for the tough training session for the next day.

Trust me, by writing it down, it gives you the opportunity to see the big picture, to constantly remind you of where you want to be at the end of the finish line.

Being accountable to myself has personally benefited me as well. I think many of you have read about my setback story which I almost gave up in life. (link here) But with the power of believe and being accountable to myself, I bounced back and achieved what I set myself out to achieve.

So this was me in 2011:

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I felt really awful and depressed in 2011, and it was the period that I was in my worst shape in my life. I was at the lowest point in my swimming career, and it was really hard to climb back up from it.

I was so unfit to the point that a simple swim set which I used to complete easily would take me twice the amount of effort to complete, and man it was really really discouraging, especially when you’re swimming times that you’ve done a few years back. It kinda feels like the training that you’ve put in the past couple of years have gone down the drain.

However, that did not stop me from believing in the process. As I have mentioned above, I pictured where I wanted to be in 2013-2015 so I committed myself to working hard towards being the person I wanted myself to be.

I pictured myself as a much fitter, faster swimmer than I was there. And of course, I pictured myself winning a SEA Games medal after my dreadful 2011 experience. I told myself that never again I’m going to feel this devastated in my life.

To me, the only way that I could get out of this devastation was to win a medal at the next SEA Games. So I pictured myself in 2011 and thought about hanging the medal around my neck in 2013, alongside with amazing things that could happen in my swimming career if I were to be fitter and faster.

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With that mentality, I started working a lot harder, and kept reminding myself of that medal I desired so much, but it has always been taken constantly away from me.

I was rarely tempted to stay up late during my training days as I know that it will be detrimental to my performances. There were some occasions that I couldn’t resist the temptation of a late night of playing computer games, but being accountable for my own actions really made me change those bad habits.

Competitions are brutal – everyone is fighting their hearts out in a race just to win, and there can only be one winner in a race. This is why in order to win, you’ll have to sacrifice, and learn to do things that are out of the norm.

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So by the end of 2013, I was able to make that picture I had in 2011 to a reality, all through believing in the process, and being accountable to my actions. This goes to show that as long as you set your mind up to a goal, and stick to it no matter how hard it may be, you’ll be able to achieve them in time to come. 🙂

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Building from that, 2013 gave me a lot more motivation to work even harder than before, as I know that anything’s possible as long if I set myself up well for it, and set goals which I am accountable for.

University got really stressful, and it wasn’t giving me enough rest time between sessions, so I took a leap of faith and took a break from school to focus on swimming. I had the courage to do that as I wanted to make sure that I was accountable to myself, and preparing myself to the best of my ability when the big day comes.

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And true enough, goals which I set myself out to achieve has been done again, because I’ve gave myself an opportunity to perform at the best of my ability, and I always held myself accountable to my own actions.

I started being more accountable to myself when I’ve failed to medal in both the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games. I used to think that it was a curse that I failed so badly back then, but come to think of it, failing has taught me many life lessons which I treasure today. In order to appreciate your success more, you’ll have to learn to fail first. Because you’ll only realize the sweetness of success when you’ve failed badly.

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If I were to reflect back on the setbacks of my life, I’m proud to say that I’m glad those experiences happened. Because it shaped me to the person I am today – someone who is no longer afraid of failing, and someone who is constantly accountable for my own actions.

I’ve already made plans for the 2017 SEA Games moving on from my 2015 SEA Games experience, and I’m getting fitter and faster with each passing day. I’ll keep my targets a secret but just know that I’ve already pictured where I want to be by 2017. So I hope that you’ve made your plans too!

With that said, I hope that my post will motivate you to start making plans for yourself and hold yourself accountable to them! Remember to write them down, and I wish you all the best in achieving them. Let’s strive to get better together! 🙂

 

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2 simple tips to pacing yourself better in a race

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Swimming has become such a complex sport that every detail matters in a race. A bad pace into the first 50m, and the whole race will be over. Imagine all the months of hard work just got screwed over by 1 bad pace at the first 50m… that ain’t worth it at all. This is why pacing yourself well is crucial in defining whether your race will be a good one or bad one.

But hey, you’re not to blame fully as the competitor beside you may decided to go out hard during the race and you simply got distracted. How is that fair? Sadly, that’s just now swimming works. Although we control our own swims, we can sometimes get distracted by the person beside us if they have a different race plan from us.

With that said, as long as we have a solid race plan, nothing will be able to distract us from sticking to it. Below are some tips which I’ve learnt over the years to ensure that you will NEVER AGAIN screw up your race plan, even if you have another person beside you who has a totally different one.

It’s actually pretty simple, all you have to do is to pay more attention to little details during your training, and everything will fall into place when competition comes. As the saying goes…

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The tricky thing about swimming is that we’ll never know how fast or slow we’re going when we’re swimming. We’re unable to check the pace clock (unlike other sports) as we’re constantly putting our head in the pool. Therefore, pacing has to be based on feeling, and the better feel you have, the better you can pace. We can pace off someone else’s race plan sometimes, but ultimately, knowing your own race plan ensures that your swimming performances stay consistent.

Coach: “Eh why didn’t you swim well today?” 
Swimmer: “Because I have no water feel today coach…” 

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Here are 2 simple tips to let you have a better feel for pace in the water:

1) Count your strokes during pace sets

What we constantly do at the National Training Squad is that we’re always counting strokes when doing 50m pace works. Our coaches will give us a set like 8×50 on 1:00, and the break down will be:

2 holding 31 seconds pace
2 holding 30 seconds pace
2 holding 29 seconds pace
2 holding 28 seconds pace 

The key will be to count your strokes for each block of 2, and try to hold the same stroke counts for each 2. For example, I hold:

30 strokes for the 1st 2 on 31 seconds pace
31 strokes for the 2nd 2 30 seconds pace
32 strokes for the 3rd 2 29 seconds pace
33 strokes for the last 2 28 seconds pace

So if I were to do a 1500m Freestyle race in competitions and the timing I am aiming for is a 15 min 30 seconds, I will have to hold a 31 second pace per 50m (31 seconds + 31 seconds = 1 min 02 seconds. 1 min 02 seconds x 15 = 15 min 30 seconds), which is about 30 strokes per 50 meters. So in a race, all I have to do is to ensure that I maintain my 30 strokes stroke length and I should roughly know that I’m on par for a 15 min 30 seconds pace.

Of course, we also have to factor in an increase in stroke rate in the last few hundred meters of a race due to fatigue, but that will be a separate blog post for another time.

2) Know the different kick patterns and when to apply them

Next step after establishing your stroke counts, you have to establish your kick counts. We all know that there are 3 different types of kick patterns:

i) 2 beat kick
ii) 4 beat kick
iii) 6 beat kick

And it goes in an order of difficulty too. The more you kick, the more sore you’re going to be. In a race, it’s about finding balance in your kicks to ensure that you do not fatigue too early in the race, and still have enough energy to max out your kicks in the final stages of the race, because that will determine whether you win or lose a race.

I shall use myself as an example again to give you a clearer explanation of the different types of kicks:

For a 30 strokes, 31 seconds pace – I use a 2 beat kick
For a 31 strokes, 30 second pace – I use a 4 beat kick
For a 32 strokes, 29 second pace – I use a light 6 beat kick
For a 33 strokes, 28 second pace – I use a heavier 6 beat kick

So it’s about connecting your kicks to your pulls, and finding a suitable pace to go for in the various races, whether it’s a 200m Freestyle, or 1500m Freestyle. Choose the kick patterns and in cooperate it into your swims, and you should have a better pacing during your race.

Things to note

The key message from this post would be to understand your own body well. You may not have the same kick patterns as I have, so you’ll have to find out what’s best suited for you and stick to it during your training sessions!

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Just imagine your body as a race car – Your arms are the steering wheel, and your legs are the wheels. The better you tune it, the better it’s going to be during a race. And tuning it comes from finding the connection in your arms and legs together when doing your pace work, and knowing the various kick patterns and arms strokes required to achieve certain timings in your pace work.

Start paying attention to the little details in training like stroke count and kick patterns, and you’ll be able to establish your race paces better! Say goodbye to distractions and I hope you start swimming great races!!! 🙂

 

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This is why you should take every race seriously

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Hello guys! I’m back again with issue which I would like to bring up. Basically, it’s about taking every competition – no matter how small it may be, or how fatigue you are that day, and race your heart out every race. When I say race your heart out I mean RACE UNTIL YOUR ARMS AND LEGS FEEL LIKE FALLING OFF, and make sure that you have nothing left in the tank after that race.

It took me about a year to understand this concept of racing hard no matter what the competition may be. I was initially skeptical towards this approach. Like come on – Why do I need to race hard in unimportant competitions when I can win the race with an easier time? I mean I’m not bragging about this, but it is true, I think athletes tend to ease off when they know that they can win the competition with ease. It’s kinda similar to social loafing, where you exert less effort to achieve that same target. But I would like to address this today about why we should all change this loafing mindset and start racing hard no matter what the competition is.

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Wan

1. Every competition is a chance for you to realize your weaknesses

Going hard every race allows you to solidify your race plan when it comes to big competitions. It’s simple – every race gives you an opportunity to try out new race plans and techniques, so don’t waste those opportunities to just ‘race to win.’ Take it as a chance to try out the different things that you’ve learnt from training, keep the good things that you’ve learnt, and toss away the things that you thought was good but didn’t pan out well during your race.

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Wan

2. Your weaknesses are AMPLIFIED during competitions

People are tempted to not go all out after a tough week of training when they are at their most fatigue stage. But if you learn to race hard, you’ll be able to pin point where your weaknesses lie during your race, especially when your body is at it’s most fatigue stage. That’s because the pain amplifies when you’re tired, so you know EXACTLY where your weaknesses are. For example, in a race, if your legs start to hurt like mad in the last few meters of your race, you know for sure that your weakness lies in your kick, and you’ll have to work more on it during the next phase of training.

3. It helps in fighting through greater pain barriers

Similar to what I’ve mentioned above, when weaknesses are amplified, pain is amplified as well. Racing hard on bad days allows you to push through greater pain barriers as compared to when you’re well rested and tapered. And if you can push through the pain barrier in a race which you are unrested, you’ll have no fear when it comes to bigger competitions, when you know that you’re more well rested and in shape.

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4. Sometimes, your best times come unexpected

At times, you’ll still be able to swim best times even when you’re tired! For me, I’ve swum best times before when I’m unrested throughout my swimming career, and that gives me a huge confidence boost as I know that my times are going to be much better when I’m well rested and tapered. So just race your heart out, and see how the race pans out.

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I hope my post inspires you to take every racing opportunity seriously, and race your heart out every race. Always remember that every race is a chance for you to better yourself, and it also trains you up both physically and mentally to prepare you better for the bigger competitions to come, so STOP LOAFING!!! 

 

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Why should school bell curve systems be removed

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I’ve just started my internship recently and there have already been a few surprising observations that I’ve made over the course of 12 weeks with regards to it being different from school life.

I was initially expecting a pretty cold and boring office setting, whereby everyone will be focused on getting their own job done without really caring about whoever’s in the office. However, what really surprised me was the teamwork we had as a department. Everyone in my department live by a philosophy of honesty and trust – politics are put aside and we are not afraid to share knowledge to one another so that all of us can get our jobs done efficiently. Without further ado, here are things which I’ve learnt from work life which is different from school, which made me feel strongly against the current bell curve system that most school systems are currently having.

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1) TEAMWORK is forgotten in school

In university, people are only focused solely on how they can climb their GPA scores up, to the point whereby they have forgotten that school is all about learning and sharing knowledge, and how we can help one another to progress as a unit. Ultimately, I would want to transit to the work force knowing that the knowledge that I gained from university can be applied to my job.

Unfortunately, teamwork is forgotten in school, and people are just focused on how they can be smarter than the person next to them. Because bell curve system mah, if I help you, you win me, then how am I going to get a good GPA?

Students are not to be blamed for having this mindset, as having good teamwork isn’t promoted in school. The system runs in a bell curve system, which promotes selfishness in students. Helping others might potentially mean bringing your own GPA score down, so why would you wanna help?

When we transit to work life, teamwork is actually the key to success in an organization. It isn’t so much about individual effort or recognition, or how high your GPA was in school. It’s about how you can use your knowledge to contribute to the progression of the organization. Being selfless is the most efficient way for the organization to move forward. Without teamwork, progression will be slowed down drastically.

HEY YOU FORGOT GROUP PROJECTS!!!

Granted that you get group projects that promotes teamwork, however, once the project is done, we all kinda go our separate ways and start mugging endlessly for our final exams.

 

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2) & That promotes brainless cramping of information

A common phenomenon observed a day before a final paper is that majority of students are busy cramping up all the notes of the different theories and formulas that they have learnt in class. Even before walking to the exam hall, people are still busy cramping as much information as they can. It’s not because they did not prepare before hand, it’s just that it’s pretty damn impossible to cramp 13 weeks of theories and formulas in one sitting. The hardest part is that you have to know the theories almost word for word or you will get penalized if the person next to you memorized the theories better than you did.

I have to be honest, I’m also one of those students who cramp as much information as I can before sitting into the exam hall, that’s because when I memorize lecture 2, I forget a bit of lecture 1, and when I memorize lecture 3, I forget a bit of lecture 2, so I have to keep going back and forth just to try to retain as much information as possible.

I’d like to use the analogy of gambling when it comes to exams. It’s like choosing the correct lectures to invest your brain memory in and hoping that those topics you studied for come out during exams. I personally feel that it’s impossible to memorize all 13 lectures in one sitting, so if you play your cards right, you will be able to spot the correct exam questions and get an A grade. If not, say hello to C. After all, it’s do or die right?

Well, there’s an alternate path which you can choose, which is to be the Jack of all trades, but master of none – meaning you try your best to cramp down all lectures, even if it may seem really hard. You will tend to forget a thing or 2 from each lecture but this may be a safer approach for those poker players that prefer not to go all in. You’ll be able to secure a B grade with this approach.

But saying that, brainlessly mugging for exams will NOT help you with transiting and applying the knowledge in work force, it just makes you score better than the person beside you.

Sorry if I digressed a little, but with all that said, school is about how well you memorize the theories and formulas, and you have to know the theories word for word or you’ll get penalized.

& even if you know your theories, if you didn’t memorize them better than your friend beside you, YOU WILL STILL GET PENALIZED! 

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In work, if I were to forget about a theory which I learnt in school, I can always refer back to my notes or sources from online to refresh my memory a little. The key is about how you can apply those theories into real life cases.

I don’t have to promptly state “Ok so this is the exact theory that I’m using” word for word because nobody cares. All I have to do is to know which theory to use and apply it accordingly.

But in school, if we don’t use the exact words the theory states, we may be penalized a mark or two for inaccuracy. Because of the bell curve system, though you may know your theories, but if the person beside you memorized the theories better than you, you will get penalized.

So honestly, why must we have a bell curve system?

In Summary…

I personally feel that the bell curve system should be removed from universities. Getting good grades SHOULDN’T BE A COMPETITION.  Instead, it should be about having vast knowledge in your specific field by the end of your graduation, and how each and every student can unite and help one another on areas which they are weak in. Removing the bell curve system also removes the fear of jeopardizing your own grade if you help the person next to you.

This would also in turn promote teamwork in a school setting, which will be beneficial to students when they transit to the work force. Because in work life, teamwork is key to having success in an organization!!!

Thing to note… What if students cheat during exams? 

I stated that with the bell curve system removed, people wouldn’t have to worry about their grades being affected when they help a friend. However, does this mean that cheating in exams will occur because everyone is working as a unit now?

That would be a possible flaw, but I highly doubt it will happen. Most university papers are conducted in an essay format, with 8-10 essay questions, and each answer is about 1 to 1 and a half pages long, and given the amount of time we have to complete our exams (1 hr 45 mins to 2 hours) it is practically impossible to copy the essay of the student next to you. So it’s pretty damn hard to cheat during exams.

ON A SIDE NOTE…

This blog post only applies to majority of the people that are in school. THIS POST IS NOT MEANT FOR ASPIRING DOCTORS, LAWYERS, OR ENGINEERS. Please disregard this blog post. if you fall under the any of the courses that I’ve mentioned. I don’t want any accidents to happen as these are majors that require you to memorize everything to perfection. Everything in these majors are so specific that a single mistake you make could cost you a life. So if you fall into these majors, keep studying hard! 😉 

 

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24.

It’s been a tiring but fruitful week as I celebrated my 24th Birthday last week. So many great memories so it’s time I updated you all on what went down last week so read on if you’re interested! 🙂

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So first off was when Volkswagen Singapore decided to sponsor me their Golf Cabriolet for the week, it’s the first time in my life I’ve driven a convertible sports car and MAN IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE. Well of course the first thing when I received the car was to test out how fast the car could go… (Eh, I guess every normal guy would do that). We all like speed, don’t we? The acceleration was pretty sick, and I really loved the car.

It was also nice that I could finally drive my parents in a sports car. It has always been one of my dreams to be able to drive them in a car like that. I remember having a conversation with my mum and dad before and telling them to survive until I get the chance to drive them in a sports car, and I’m glad that this opportunity came early even before I start my work life.

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I know this car thing sounds a bit lame, but I think every kid would always want the best for their parents, and for me that was for them to see a successful me before they leave this earth. I know I may sound negative but I always fear that my parents may be gone one day, so I’m always constantly striving to be the best I can so that they can be happy as well. Because parents are usually selfless in nature, and it would mean the world to them when they see that their children are doing well.

Honestly, this car has created some great memories for my family and I. But like I said in many of my blog post, life isn’t always a smooth sail. Here’s something really really stupid and childish that happened at the parking lot when I first got my car.

It was after my afternoon session, and the sun was setting, and the temperature was perfect. I decided to drive top down, since I only have the convertible for 2 days. My family wanted to dine at one of the restaurants at the airport, so I drove top down there. I found a parking lot in front of me and went for the lot. As I wasn’t really familiar with my car, I took a longer time to reverse into my lot. That was when this driver (who was with his girlfriend) started to hold his honk and honked me.

it was legitimately a “BEEEEEEEP!!!!!!!!!!!” So obviously I got shocked and I turned around to look at him. So I raised my hands up, signalling to him on what the issue was. He drove up to me, and winded down his window.

“Yo, is there an issue?” I asked him.

“Yeah obviously there is, you take so long to park for f***?” He shouted.

“What the, can’t you just wait for 1 minute??” I was quite pissed at this point in time.

“Of course cannot la!!!” His girlfriend replied.

“Eh, do you have any idea how stupid you sound right now?” I was legitimately damn pissed at this point in time.

“F*** YOU!!!!!” He shouted.

“Yo if you have anything you’re unhappy about, get out of your car, we can always talk it out, if not right now, you just sound really stupid.” I was doing my best not to sink down to his level of stupidity.

“F*** YOU!!!!!!!!!!” And he sped off with his girlfriend.

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This was one of the bad cases which I’ve experienced when driving the Cabriolet. I don’t know what made him so angry, but I’ll let you figure that out!

Overall, that case did piss me off quite a bit, but it became a lot better when I met my parents at the airport and we had sushi!!! 🙂

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So Saturday came and M Social sponsored me a day stay in their Loft Gallery for the day. The rooms have a really classy concept to it. What surprised me was that the hotel actually features a 2 story room!!! So first level is like the chill level, and the second level is where the queen size bed is. So for people who are thinking of hosting a party here, it’s first floor party, and crash after the party on the second floor. 🙂

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They also have an awesome pool with a gym at the back for those that want to workout. Really like the concept a lot 🙂

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And came the final segment of the night – My mentor called a few close friends over and hosted my birthday party at his house. There were 2 cakes – one from my family and one from his. I might have gained a few pounds over the week! But hey, birthday only happens once a year, so when it’s time to indulge, INDULGE!!!! The 2 cakes were chocolate ice cream cake and OREO cheesecake. I love oreos, and I think everyone loves oreos too hahaha.

P.S. Sorry I didn’t manage to snap a photo of the cakes, was too busy indulging.

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You can’t really see my mentor from that photo but here’s a closer shot of him. He’s someone that helps me behind the scenes whenever I get into shit. So in simple terms, every time I get into shit, I call him for advice and help HAHAHA. But he’s always willing to talk to me even when I call him during his family time.

I personally find it important to have a mentor in your life – Someone you can pour your deepest troubles to in times of need. Someone that doesn’t judge you no matter how ridiculous your situation may be. And someone that will stay by your side even when odds are stacked against you.

Parents are pretty similar to mentors, just that there are some things which you may be afraid to open up to your parents in fear that they may scold you; that’s when a mentor plays an important role into ensuring that things are still going well with you though you may seem to be ok on the outside.

So all in all, thanks for always listening to my troubles Yeoh!

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My closest friends shared a boat together on Sunday to hang out and chill, which was really fun as we finally got time to gather and catch up with each other after soooooooo long.

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My favorite crew – I think we click so well because all of us are pretty genuine people. We will always stand by each other through almost everything.

It’s really good to know that no matter what happens, we’ll always be there for each other. Even if we may be wrong at times, we will be wrong together. 🙂

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On a side note, it was really nice to get Macallan on board with us on this board trip. First time drinking a Macallan and it was really good! But hey, I only drink during really special occasions, so swimmers, please don’t use that as an excuse to drink!

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And that concludes my birthday week. Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes. I haven’t exactly replied all of you yet, but I will, soon, just give me time yeah. 🙂

Also, if you think that I’m living the “high life”, I actually only do this once a year at most. My daily life includes waking up at 4:45am for training, followed by work, followed by another session of training, then I’ll be home for dinner. It’s a pretty regimental life so I don’t usually have time for R&R like these, so this is one of the few days I get to enjoy myself!

If you’re wondering how much it is to book a Yacht, it’s about $100 per pax, so it beats going to a club for drinks, as you all can actually chill and really catch up with your friends after not seeing them for a long time.

Hope this post gives you an update on how my birthday week went! And to those of you who haven’t had their birthday celebrations, hope this gives you an idea on how to celebrate your upcoming birthday. 🙂

 

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